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June 8, 2009
You Had Your Chance
“You support Pat Toomey? The point of political parties is to win
elections and build majorities, not to be bastions of ideological
purity. Arlen Specter and Susan Collins were right this week – if we
don’t broaden the tent we’re going to end up a marginalized regional
party out of power for a very long time.”
This note that I recently received is perfectly reflective of the
countless conversations I have had lately about the future of the GOP.
And I have since realized that, as mistaken as the self-proclaimed
“big-tenters” are, no one is more frustrating than those among them who
oddly proclaim that the Republican Party has acted anything like an
“ideologically pure” conservative party in recent years.
The reality is that the Republican Party has, for at least a decade,
been everything contrary to what the “purists” wanted it to be. In fact,
it has taken every step the big-tenters claim are necessary to “save”
the party from permanent minority status.
When the GOP took control of the House of Representatives in 1995 after
four decades of being in the minority, it did so unabashedly on
conservative principles. George W. Bush won in 2000 not by revealing
what turned out to be his agenda of merely slower government growth, but
on promises to rely on conservative principles.
the height of its 21st Century power, the GOP had comfortable
control of both elected branches of the federal government, and it was
due in no small part to promises of adopting conservative policies.
However, the 2000s also saw Washington change too many of those who had
gone there to change it.
What did they change to? Why, they became big-tenters! They took control
of party leadership, and fervently supported genuine liberals such as
Lincoln Chafee and Arlen Specter against conservatives who challenged
them in Republican primaries. They “moderated” their views and became a
party of deficits, pork and amnesty. In other words, at the very height
of its power, the GOP was precisely what the big-tenters claim it
should become now.
They had their chance, and they failed.
When the GOP ceased standing for any principles, no one had any reason
to vote for its candidates. In 2006, countless conservatives stayed at
home, and many Americans, no longer able to differentiate between the
two parties on fiscal issues, voted on tie-breakers such as the Iraq
War. In 2008, the GOP nominated precisely the type of “moderate”
Republican the big-tenters adore, and he got destroyed by a rookie with
zero substance and shady connections who had just come off a vicious
For the record, Ronald Reagan didn’t put 49 states in his pocket by
running on Arlen Specter’s platform.
Big-tenters, you had your chance. What else do you want? “Moderate”
majority? You had that. “Moderate” presidential nominee? You had that.
How else can we help you? How will the same exact route that you
advocate end any better than it did last time?
Please, stop pretending that the GOP is out of power because it has been
“too conservative,” or because it has been “the party of Rush Limbaugh,”
when it has been everything conservatives stand against. Stop pretending
that you want anything different from what you had in 2006 and 2008,
when you were in full control of the party and its candidates. Stop
pretending that you don’t currently dominate a party leadership that
endorsed Arlen Specter weeks before he became a Democrat, and is now
endorsing another Republican-lite Charlie Crist in Florida.
Stop asking for the party to “return” to the center – return from where,
You run the party, and you are failing. Stop pretending that it’s
because the “purists” stand in your way. The only people standing
between you and a majority are yourselves. And when you come to
recognize this unfortunate reality, turn over the reins – we know how to
work them. We tend get it right when we get the chance.
© 2009 North Star
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